Transportation Department says taxing drivers by the mile is not part of Biden’s agenda after Buttigieg said it showed ‘promise’

Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at a press conference in February. John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • The Department of Transportation clarified comments made Friday by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
  • Buttigieg on Friday said that a mileage tax to fund Biden’s infrastructure plan had “a lot of promise.”
  • But on Saturday, a spokesperson said such a tax is not part of Biden’s agenda.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The office of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Saturday said the Biden administration was not considering a plan to tax drivers by the number of miles that they drive after Buttigieg said during an interview he was open to the idea.

During a CNBC interview Friday about his goals for US infrastructure and Biden’s upcoming infrastructure plan, Buttigieg was asked about funding the president’s plan, which is expected to cost about $US3 ($4) trillion. He was specifically questioned about the efficacy of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, which would tax drivers by the number of miles they drive and is seen as an alternative to taxing gasoline.

“I think that shows a lot of promise,” Buttigieg said. “If we believe in that so-called user-pays principle, the idea that part of how we pay for roads is you pay based on how much you drive. The gas tax used to be the obvious way to do it. It’s not anymore, so a so-called vehicle miles traveled tax or mileage tax – whatever you want to call it – could be a way to do it.”

“You’re hearing a lot of ‘maybe’ here because all of these things need to be balanced and could be part of the mix,” he said.

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But a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation on Saturday shut down the idea after the statement went viral online in a short video clip, sparking a range of reactions and criticism online.

-The Recount (@therecount) March 26, 2021

“The Secretary was having a broad conversation about a variety of ways to fund transportation,” Ben Halle, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, told Insider’s Adam Wren. “To be clear, he never said that VMT was under consideration by the White House as part of this infrastructure plan- and it is not.”

Biden is expected to unveil his infrastructure plan in Pittsburgh next week. The $US3 ($4) trillion proposal is expected to consist of two bills, according to a report from The New York Times. The first bill is expected to have a focus on upgrading bridges and roads while the second would focus on elements like education and childcare, according to the report.